Lunch Roulette: A New Way to Network

If you're like most of us, you probably can't recall the last time you had a conversation with someone outside your department. (Or it was the holiday party, in which case you might wish you couldn't recall.) Connecting with people who have different schedules, skill sets, and interests, is challenging, even if we recognize that we'd benefit from exchanging ideas with people who think differently than we do.

Pharmaceuticals company Boehringer Ingelheim (BIPI)'s solution is an application called Lunch Roulette, which matches up workers across functional groups.

Developed by David Thompson and Christopher Tan, a scientist and a marketer at BIPI, Lunch Roulette is an easy, four-step process. Workers who use the application:

1. Pick a date.

2. Pick a lunch room.

3. Hit the "Match Me" button, and receive a time and place.

4. Show up.

In the first seven weeks of use, the application matched up 350 people. Even the CEO got in on the deal, matching up with a junior member of the brand marketing team.

"A lot of times, a CEO only talks with someone who has been prescribed for them. With Lunch Roulette, he doesn't know who he'll be paired with and neither does the other person," says Thompson in an interview with Harvard Business Review. "Both can learn something from the other. After all, if we don't have people who can learn both up and down, then we have the wrong people in both levels."

Don't work at BIPI? Don't worry. The application sounds neat, but the most useful part of the concept is the core idea. You can network across departments, even without the cool app. Who knows what you'll learn at your next lunch?

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